It’s 3am and the alarm starts beeping. The breeze finds its way into bundled sleeping bags and feet slowly start hitting the floor. Showers are foregone and layers of long sleeve shirts are put on. Breakfast is bread with butter and jelly, eaten while heading out the door with daypacks on and headlamps illuminated. The group of 7 is weary but ready for the adventure ahead, still not exactly awake yet though. Feet scuffle along the dirt road as the starts still glimmer above. Memories of the past week play over and over like a broken film projector, each individual reflecting on events differently. This is my morning. We woke up at the crack of dawn to walk miles to the nearest bus station in order to catch the one bus that leaves from the rural village where we’ve spent the past week. We were in the southern highlands of Tanzania where the mountains tumble and the views are spectacular. The junction to catch the bus was about an hours walk up what we call “Death Hill” because the incline and slope is basically straight up. We arrived at the bus station at 4am, waited an hour, and finally when the bus arrived there were about triple the amount of people as there were seats…resulting in every nook and cranny of the bus being packed with a person. Somehow we managed to cram 7 more people on the bus and personal space was no longer an option, you were just lucky if there was a space for you to breathe fresh air. 3 hours of standing, smushing, rocking and rolling later we were all thrilled to feel solid ground. That was my morning..was yours a little different?
Sorry for such a short post last time, we only had an hour at the internet cafe between activities. This is only the second time we’ve had internet on this trip because we just finished a remarkable week-long volunteer experience in the villages located in the southern highlands of Tanzania. Going all the way back tp day 1 our group of 7 arrived in Dar es Saalam, Tanzania safe and sound. We breathes in our first wiffs of moist African air and knew it was going to be an amazing 3 months. After a night in Dar we took a car to Morogoro where we spent 3 days soaking up the sun, going on walks, eating our first Tanzanian foods, and getting to know our group better. It was an awesome few days of adventure and information for the upcoming journey. From there the adventure really began with cramped and bumpy bus rides to Iringa town for a stopover night before our final destination of the Mufindi region where we just spent the past week. It was a beyond remarkable week and I can’t really explain most of it. Pictures won’t do it justice and my stories only go so far. There will be a more detailed post about the etire organization later but I’ll give you a few stories.
One night at the orphanage we went over to tutor the older boys. They had just been studying for a while so we decided to play games instead. The power was conviently out all day so we made the best of it and grabbed some candles and got the games going. Our leaders walked in to see the 5 of us students screaming and hooting while playing Uno with one candle between al of us. They said it was an amazing site to see.
One day our group split in 3 and headed to different villages to do home based health care visits. These visits are where we go into rural villages and check up on the HIV positive, dying , or ill. My group visited 20 + homes with people who were on the upswing of recovery, and people who were on their way out. It really effected me to see the opposite spectrums of life all within the same day. All the people stuck with me but our last stop was to the home of little Deborah. This beautiful 5 year old girl has more fight in her than I ever will. She was born in a village and is HIV positive. Her CD4 count, or the good guys in your body, was at 3. Normal HIV negative people have a CD4 count of 700 + and when your CD4 count drops below 200 for an HIV positive person you are put on anti retroviral drugs and are considered seriously ill. Somehow Deborah survived her first heat of life and made it through 2 blood transfusions and is climbing the ladder to health. It is remarkable that she is alive today with the terrible Tanzanian health care system and lack of medical education. She’s one of a kind.
One night we gathered in the community center at the orphanage for movie night. The students were learning about oceans and tides in schoolso it was only fitting that we watch the BBC series, “Human Planet” for this movie night. With a projector and speakers we sat on mats with the kids as they laughed at the Inuit men fishing the whales which they insisted on calling just “fish”. After 2 episodes I had enough children sleeping on me that I could barely breathe. It was the cutest thing to see what images they would react to, the Amazon hunters with bare butts seemed to be the biggest hit.
These are just a few of the million of stories I could have told about this past week in the mountains. I learned a remarkable amount of information about how a very successful non profit is run and how to make the most impact. It is probably one of the best run non profits I’ve ever seen and it’s exactly the type of one I hope to be involved with in the future.
As for now, spirits are at an all time high even with some minor sickness and tummy troubles spreading around. We are headed to a week of intensive Swahili lessons in another village where we will be camping. Safari njema! (Safe journey!)
Much love from my second home, Becca